Editorial: SIU Enrollment Goes Down Again

Tuesday evening SIU released ten-day enrollment figures for spring 2013, and once again even casual
Chris Wissmann


Tuesday evening SIU released ten-day enrollment figures for spring 2013, and once again even casual observers needn’t possess the gift of prophecy to foresee the outcome.

The historic fall 2012 enrollment collapse at SIU’s Carbondale campus carried over into the spring. As Nightlife reminded readers last week, SIU lost 1,011 total students and 970 on-campus students between fall 2011 and fall 2012. That was the biggest decline since Nightlife began tracking enrollment, maybe the biggest in SIU’s history, and probably the largest since the end of the Vietnam War-era student-deferment draft exemption that attracted so many young men to the university during the 1960s boom years.

SIU posted similarly bleak numbers between spring 2012 and spring 2013. Total enrollment for spring 2012 limped along at 18,442, but now it has gone down to 17,152, a decline of 1,290, or just a hair less than seven percent. (Contrast this with Southeast Missouri State University, which reported that first-day enrollment at rose 3.4 percent from last spring.)

Need anyone remind the university administration how this harms the cultural and economic vitality of this region, to say nothing of the campus itself? How people with money to invest will shun the region, and Carbondale in particular, in this toxic atmosphere of decay? How this hurts attendance-- and the economic viability-- of everything from concerts at Shryock and plays at McLeod to sports at Saluki Stadium and the Arena?

Of course, the lost revenue from low enrollment is hurting the ability of SIU to pay for the core purpose of the university-- qualified professors who can teach students. To make up for the fewer number of tuition-paying students on campus, SIU has rapidly raised tuition, probably accelerating enrollment declines and certainly cutting the economic impact of the ever-fewer students who do choose to come here for their educations. At some point, SIU will go too far, and may already have.

How many more similar campus censuses must come to light before, fiscally speaking, SIU looks like a collapsing Ponzi scheme?

Do they get it? Apparently not.

In the Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations Department, according to a press release, SIU Carbondale campus chancellor Rita Cheng “has established a goal of all colleges increasing student retention by two percent for the fall 2013 semester.”